Friday, April 30, 2010

Tedium

Jasfoup bound the head with duct tape.

It was easy enough horizontally. It stuck to the chap's hair and once he'd made a complete circuit it stuck to itself, enabling to wind the roll over the mouth, the nostrils and the eyes. The other way was harder. It wouldn't stick to the gooey mess where the head used to be attached to the neck. He could let the thing dry a bit... no, he hadn't time. He contented himself with several vertical loops – enough to stop it sticking back on. He dropped the package into a felt shoe bag still stitched with the name : 'Johnny Woodhead Class 3C' and added two half bricks.

The whole thing made a satisfying splash in the river and sank immediately. He watched until there were no more bubbles and then turned. On the ground, the headless corpse still twitched, the fingers curling and uncurling in the moonlight.

Jasfoup hefted the axe. This was getting tedious.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

No Robbery?

Harold looked at the man in front of the reception desk, then down at the book , then back up at the man. He was a tall, mid thirties sort of chap in a green cardigan. Probably a teacher. "A what?"

"An exchange," said the man, tapping the cover of the book as if there were a point to be made. "I bought it and my wife bought me a copy as well." He gave a bark of laughter. "Serendipity."

"Then I suggest," said Harold, pushing the book back toward the customer, "that your wife takes her copy back instead."

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Pet Hairs

Julie sighed and brushed at the hair on the sofa. "You know," she said, "it's getting to the point where I don't want to sit down in the house any more. The dog hair gets everywhere and even one of those sticky rollers doesn't quite get rid of it all. I always think people are staring at me and pointing when i walk down the street."

"They are staring at you and pointing," said Harold, "but it's got nothing to do with the dog hair. What do you want me to do about it, anyway? Get a kennel?"

"That would certainly help."

"Isn't that a bit harsh? She's your sister. She can't help being a werewolf."

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Death of a Devil Kin

Harold looked at the plastic bottle. There was a lump at the bottom that may once have been a dribble of banana milk shake but had long since evolved into something else. Something sentient, probably.

"Don't take the top off," said Jasfoup. "There'll be untold consequences."

"Yes. A smell of sour milk and old crabs," said Harold. He shook the bottle, causing the lump to lurch from side to side.

"Not just that," said the demon, "but I trapped the devil that possessed you inside there. Let him out and he'll be free to find rebirth in some careless black-lipsticked teenager."

"There's a devil inside here? Like a djinn in a lamp?"

Jasfoup nodded. "Only without the three wishes, yes. Unless your wishes were 'rip my face off and dance on my bones."

"That's only two wishes." Harold gazed at the bottle. "Perhaps the third wish could be something more lucrative."

"Like 'rip everybody's face off?" Jasfoup shuddered. "I wish I knew what to do with it."

Monday, April 26, 2010

Un Fare

Tom Blesset scowled when he saw who'd climbed into the back of his cab. He'd have liked to have refused the fare but it had been a slow night and he'd be luck to break even. "Where to?" he said.

"Itth Lane," said the rasping voice from the shadows of the back seat. At least he'd moved out of the light from the street. That was a blessing.

"Where?"

"Itth Lane," said the voice again, agitated now. "'E'ind the canal turnin' 'oint."

"Pitt's Lane? You should have said." Tom clicked the odometer and pulled off, red neon numbers clicking away the fare. He opened a window when the smell permeated the interior of the cab. He'd hung three of the cardboard air fresheners in the back but it wasn't enough. "There's a surcharge if you soil the cab," he said. "Fifty quid. More if there's a stain I can't get off."

"Ith all righ'," said the voice. "I brough' my own theet to thit on."

Tom, somewhat mollified, shook his head and continued driving. He hated zombies.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Villains

"Gordon Chalfont, isn't it?"

Charlie 'The Squeeze' Mackay looked at his companion and winked. His large friend, Jimmy 'The Spike' McFallon nodded and grinned, displaying his mis-matched teeth. "I believe you owe our employer a substantial sum of money."

Gordon frowned. "You must be mistaken. I transferred the money to him thirty minutes ago."

"That's not what he told us yesterday," said Jimmy.

"Well he wouldn't have done, would he?" said Gordon. "I've just paid it now."

"Hold on a mo," Charlie pulled out a buzzing mobile. "I've just got to answer this. Entertain yourselves for a minute, would you."

Jimmy waited until Charlie was out of earshot and pulled his knife out. "Entertain yourself, he said. That means doing something that makes you smile." Much to Gordon's distress, what made Jimmy smile was to stick his knife into people.

Charlie returned a moment later. "That was the boss, Jimmy. He says not to off Mister Chal... never mind."

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Day Trip

"Well," said Harold, watching the dragon soar through the sky and out of sight. "That was exhilarating, despite the sore bum. I've never ridden a dragon before. Where are we?"

"The southern steppes of Ukraine, I think," said Jasfoup, adjusting his trousers. "She must live in those mountains to the north."

"It's a bit chilly." Harold stamped his feet and rubbed his arms. "What have you got planned for the return journey?"

"Planned?" Jasfoup frowned. "You said you wanted a ride to 'somewhere southern in Europe' on the back of a dragon. You didn't say anything about 'and back again'."

Friday, April 23, 2010

Proof

Bernadette was an avid reader of teen fiction. She devoured stories if the paranormal; werewolves, witches and the ever-romantic vampires of Anne Rice, Kim Harrison and Stephanie Meyer. Her belief in God wavered, and she began have a special place on her dressing table for pentagram jewellery, incense burners and pewter charms. It was never enough. She made a wish, holding a crucifix so tight it cut into her palm. She wished for proof.

She didn't remember the razor blade. She wouldn't have known where to get one in the first place but there it was. A sign. Locking her bedroom door and putting on a Sisters of Mercy CD, she sliced her wrists halfway to the elbow, squeezing her eyes tight against the pain. Proof of the supernatural arrived within minutes.

Azrael, the Angel of Death.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

An Unexpected Ally

"Lucy? Bed." Harold looked up from his copy of 'The Canterbury Tales' to his eight year old daughter. She was curled up in the other chair, a hardback copy of 'Hard Times' resting on the padded arm since it was too heavy for her to hold. There was no need to waste good money on paperbacks when he had a complete set of 1934 Bloomsbury Press Dickens.

"But dad! I have to read 'Hard Times' for school and it's... well... hard."

"The point is," said Harold, "it's past times for your bed. Besides, there's a 'Cliff Notes' on the shelf."

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Nibbles

"Wine?"

"Thank you." She held out her glass and he filled it, tilting the bottle just so; the ruby liquid spilling into the tulip in a swirling stream of rich promise.

"It's a little dry," he said, "but it goes very well with the cheese and olives. Perhaps I could tempt you to some mushroom patè?"

"I'll pass, thanks." Her face formed a rictus as she took a sip of her drink. "Dry, did you say?" She waited a moment until her eyes had stopped watering.

"Indeed." He read the label. "I got it from the deli. 'Vin è gar'."

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Chef Harold

"What's for dinner?" Harold looked toward the stove, where there was a distinct lack of simmering, broiling or roasting. "Who's turn is it to cook?"

"Yours," said Julie, dipping her hand into a packed of cheese and garlic crisps. "I fancy an Indian, personally."

"You fancy anything with a d—er... sausage," said Felicia, one eye on the child in her high chair, tucking into a bowl of vaguely orange mush."

"Indian? Sure." Harold opened the freezer. "Lamb curry do you? We've got a shank of meat in there and some vegetables and spices." He opened a cupboard. "Plenty of spices, too."

"You mean you're going to cook it personally?" Julie offered a raised eyebrow. "I'm impressed."

"Yes," said Harold. "I'm personally going to order Devious to cook dinner for four."

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Merry Widow

Violet liked visiting her daughter's house these days. Now that Sarah was single again, a widow of the waste-of-a-name husband of hers (she'd been investigated by the police but her genuine distress over his death had exonerated her) her priorities had become her home and her daughter, Emily. Without the penny-pinching Jason holding the purse strings, Sarah now indulged in the luxury of soft tissue instead of the ten-rolls-for-a-pound thrift shop bargains. Toilet paper like school tracing pads had played havoc with Violet's bottom and contributed to her previous reduced visiting. Soft tissues were much kinder, even on bloody knives.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Small Comfort

Harold looked over Lucy's shoulder. "What are you doing, love?"

"I'm writing a novel," she said. "It can't be that hard, surely? Speccy Stevens' dad writes them and he's really creepy. If creepy people can write novels then normal people like me can, too."

Harold patted her shoulder, wondering when he should tell her she was artificially inseminated by a fallen angel, her father was a half-demon, her grandmother a faery and her birth mother a vampire. He left her to it, wandering into the kitchen to make them both a hot chocolate. At least she didn't read Stephanie Myers.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Faery Queen in Exile


Ada hated having guests in the house. It wasn't that she had a messy house (she had an imp to clean and dust*) but that it was very ordinary. She had no need of the trappings of modern life (apart from a 42" telly and an espresso machine) but Harold, now hoping to be elected mayor, often brought people round 'for nibbles'.

At least that was a task easily accomplished with enchantment. None of the guests ever suspected the buffet was really just cheese hoops and ant's eggs.



* and do the washing and drink all the coffee and throw up in her BEST bedroom slippers

Friday, April 16, 2010

You don't Sing Me Love Songs, Either

Jasfoup looked at the gift in Harold's hand. "What did you do?" he asked.

Harold stuck his nose in the air. "Nothing," he said. "Can't a man bring his beloved a bouquet of flowers when he feels inspired?"

"Of course he can, but those..." Jasfoup showed his contempt for the mixed carnations and roses, "are from the late garage on Mycroft Road and can only represent guilt. I ask again. What have you done?"

Harold's bluster deflated like the Hindenburg. "I ran over one of the cats this morning."

"I see." Jasfoup stared out of the window. "They're Gillian's cats, though, you should apologise to her."

"I will. That's what the flowers are for."

"Oh?" Jasfoup frowned. "You never bring me flowers."

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Lamb (curry) Of God

Julie looked from her toes to the framed picture on the wall. Not easy while balancing a large glass of Chardonnay while lying on your back on the soft mattress of a bed. "Why have you got a photograph of Joan d'Arc?"

Marianne shrugged, causing the mattress to ripple. "God talked to her as well. It seemed like a good idea."

"He used to tell her to slaughter the English, though."

Marianne shrugged. "More wine?"

"No, ta. How did you get a photo of her though? Didn't she die ages before cameras were invented?"

"Course! That was at Madame Tussaud's in London. Look, the ticket stub is pushed in the edge of the frame."

"Oh! I wondered what that was. I thought it was a bit o' curry."

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Paging Harold Waterman...

Golden Section Afternoon

"What's at the centre of a sunflower?" asked Harold, squinting as he looked up from his recumbent position on the grass.

"The junction of two spirals, 137.52 degrees apart," said Jasfoup. "I showed that to Leonardo of Pisa, once, and it blew his mind. He wrote a paper on mathematics on it."

"On sunflowers?"

"Sort of. On the seeds, anyway. Count the seeds on a sunflower spiral and you'll get two consecutive numbers of the Fibonacci sequence. 21 seeds and 34; 55 and 89 or even 89 and 144 for a really big one."

"You've made me want a pineapple."





See also: Living with twisted willow: Sunflowers - maths, art and the pineapple

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

One-of a Kind

Sonic screwdrivers had changed a lot since Harry was a lad. When he was given his first, it was a slim, silver affair that looked to have been the love child of a propelling pencil, a pocket torch and a Polaris rocket. Now they looked more like the vibrators his mum left out deliberately when he went round for tea on alternate Sundays. Time lords were just getting flashier and flashier and he didn't even want to talk about tardises.

Harry hitched up the legs of his trousers and squatted. "Where did you get that then?" he asked. "They're not even due out until September, ready for the Christmas rush. Was it a post-production gift?"

"A what?" The boy, seeing an adults interest in something he own and equating it with the knowledge he had of his father, sank his hand into his anorak pocket, burying the sonic screwdriver safely out of sight.

"Post-production," said Harry. "Did you get it on a studio tour?"

"Nah. My auntie Jennie give it me." The lad handled grammar like a professional footballer with the ref watching. "She was second assistant cameraman on the set and swiped it after filming."

"You mean it's real." Harry tone shifted to reverential. "Can I see it?"

"It's only a prop," said the boy, drawing it from his pocket but keeping a tight hold. he switched it on, revealing the series 29 green light beam. "Only real time lords have real ones."

Monday, April 12, 2010

Good Vibrations

“Is there anybody there?” Madame de Pardo, Beryl to her friends, stared at the table. She’d done séances before but never on her own without any of the trappings. The buzzing began again and she caught her breath, suddenly worried she’d accidentally contacted Beezlebub, lord of the flies, and forgotten to close the connection.

“Knock once for yes, twice for no...”

She glanced anxiously about and almost jumped out of her skin when the phone rang. She scrambled to answer it and was relieved to find her nephew Pelham on the line. “Yes?” she said. “What do you want. I’m busy communicating with the Other Side.”

“Well I wish you’d take your mobile off silent,” he said. “I’ve been trying to ring you.”

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Fifty pen'orth


Beryl looked in at the chippy on the way home. "Could you just do me a bit of bread and butter?"

Mrs. Rakesh nodded, the buttered cobs already in a Tupperware container waiting to be sold. She took one out and wrapped it. "Fifteen pence," she said.

Beryl counted the change in her purse. "Would you put in a few chips for an extra ten pence?"

Mrs. Rakesh clicked her tongue against her teeth but opened up the bun and shovelled in a few chips. She wrapped it in paper .

"And a bit of salt and vinegar?" Beryl raise her eyebrows hopefully.

Mrs. Rakesh hissed and threw an apologetic glance at the rapidly forming queue. "Here," she said. "Twenty five pence."

Beryl smiled. "And for the other twenty-five in a fifty, have you got a fish cake. One that's overdone, perhaps, and you can't sell?"

"Yes. Here. You go now." Mrs. Rakesh was discomfited by the old woman and the line of onlookers.

"That's marvellous. Thank you." Beryl paid with a twenty pound note and waited for the change.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Palimpsest Bible

"Did you know there was a priory in Laverstone?" asked Harold, looking up from a picture book.

"There isn't," said Jasfoup, "though there used to be. It was closed by King John in 1208 after he fell out with the Pope. The monks were dispersed under pain of death and the priory was dismantled. Many of the oldest houses in the village were built of priory stone. The lower cellars here were constructed from them."

"They're asking for volunteers to excavate the ruins. I've signed up."

"Why?" Jasfoup sat down and patted Harold's hand. "There's nothing there but ghosts and memories best forgotten."

Harold showed him the page he was reading. "And the Palimpsest Bible," he said. "It's rumoured to have been brought here by Richard the Lionheart in 1194."

Friday, April 09, 2010

Pins and Needles

"No. I'm trying to watch telly."

"But it'll only take you a few minutes. You know what I'm like. Give me a box of pins and needles and I'm more likely to make a lethal knuckleduster than sort out a hem line.

"Fliss, I said no. " Marianne shook her head. "Why do you always come to me with these trivial problems?"

Because you're my best friend? And you live downstairs?"

"The answer's still no."

"Are you sure? Hmm? Not even for your best friend in all the world who'll take to Tuscador's tomorrow?" The sight of Felicia trying to look coquettish in spike heeled boots and a leather bustier was enough to prompt a snort of laughter from her friend.

"Tuscador's the Spanish-French restaurant you need to book a table three months in advance for? Marianne groaned. "All right. Hand me the sewing box."

Old Wolves

"I though being a werewolf kept you young?" Felicia spoke aloud, scowling at her reflection in the bathroom mirror."

"Keeps you healthy, not young." Jenna called from the bedroom where she was putting on her own make-up, there not being room for two in the bathroom. Felicia small apartment was described as 'compact and bijou' in the letting agent's brochure, but that's not the term Felicia generally used. 'Poky' more like. "Haven't you ever met Mikey?"

"The one with the bike?"

"No, that's Ronny. Mikey's the old guy."

"Yes, but I thought he... you know... got changed at that age."

"Gods, no. He became a wolf when he was seventeen. In the sixties."

"So we just age as normal?"

"Not exactly." Jenna poked her head through the door and for the first time Felicia notices the first blush of grey in her friend's auburn hair. "We grow old disgracefully." She reached forward, a pair of tweezers in her hand. "You just have to remember to pull out the whiskers when they hit three inches."

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Breakfast in a Bag

At the end of the day, with the shop locked up and left in the hands of the night watchimps, Harold relaxes with a cup of tea – or very occasionally cocoa – in front of the television. If it's a warm summer night he might sit out on the patio and listen to a little Mahler or Jazz on the radio. Both the patio and the window of the Green room afford him a view of the Chalk, a series of hills that run like veins through Wiltshire and Buckinghamshire, and he can see the trees turn orange with the setting sum. That's the perfect time to warm a bog of fresh blood to 97.2 and take it to his beloved, who is quite partial to breakfast in bed. Coffin, anyway.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Profits

Lucy had wanted a dog ever since she couldn't pronounce it, though her father refused to countenance the idea. "What about one of your mother's cats?" he asked, but the colony of Gillian's Egyptian Maus were mostly feral and generally resistant to the concept of pink bows tied to their tails. Thankfully, the scratches bled profusely , thus washing the wounds. "I know," he said, drying her tears with a tissue, "you can have Profits." He vanished into the attic for ten minutes and emerged with a moth-eaten old mongrel. "I loved this funny old dog for years," he said.

I Pity

"What's up with Harold?" Meinwen whispered behind an open copy of 'Gods and Hearths'. "I just saw him in the market and he's got a face like a wet weekend in Brixton."

Julie leaned forward over her lunchtime Feta salad. "He went to see Madame le Pardo and had a tarot reading. You know she always tells the truth."

"Oh dear! That'll serve him right for not coming to see me." Meinwen dropped a sprig of thyme into her cup of hot water. "What did she tell him?"

"He sad the first card she turned over was 'The Fool'."

"Well that's good. That's the start of a journey. What else?"

"The other nine cards were The Fool as well."

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Banked Up

The skin was blistered in a pattern of torn lace. White could just see the remnants of fibre in the creases though the blackened flesh left the body difficult to identify. "Are you sure it's the vicar?" he said.

Eric Chambers shook his head. "I can't be certain until I've checked his dental records," he said, "but all the indications point to it.. Look at this." He held up an evidence bag containing a block of melted metal. "Do you know how hot a fire has to be to melt silver? This was a crucifix once. You can see the imprint on his chest."

"And this lace pattern over his skin?

"Lace." Eric laughed. "My guess is he was wrapped in it to get his body from the vicarage to the bonfire."

"So how come his back wasn't burned to a crisp?"

"Luck. The wind shifted in the night and took the fire out. He fell face down and was eaten away slowly by the hot embers. A bit like banking a fire for the night."

"I'll stick with coal, I think."

Monday, April 05, 2010

Ada's Boating Accident

"What was Ada doing on the boating lake?" asked Harold as he twisted the van around Poet's Corner and felt the offside wheels leave contact with the ground. "Besides rowing a boat, I mean."

"Patently not rowing a boat, obviously," said Jasfoup, "seeing as she called us because she'd dropped them in the water."

"But why was she on the lake at all, several hours after the park had closed?"

Jasfoup coughed. "She was feeding the giant squid," he said. "She asked me not to tell you, but since you're going to find out anyway..."

"Giant squid? What giant squid?" Harold was staring at the demon so hard he ran over Mrs. Peterson, but didn't worry about it since she'd died when he was twelve and had spent thirty years crossing Baker Street at this time of night.

"It's the one from the lake at Hogwarts," said Jasfoup, sadly. "It was made redundant when they finished making the ninth film."


part one here: Laverstone Tales: Nautical Terms

Sunday, April 04, 2010

A Place to Belong

Kevin had always wanted to work in a bookshop, it was his dream job. He'd keep the stock up to date, entertain reps from the publishing houses, organise author signings and make up the displays that brought the public flocking to the till. He'd spend his lunchtimes curled up with promotional copies of all the latest releases and be the envy of the Happy Readers Club.

Okay, so he got the night shift where the store was closed and his job was to check the stock and re-file all the books the public had mis-shelved. There was so much work to do that he didn't have time for a lunch break and by the time his shift ended he was so tired he couldn't remember going home before he was back again. He never got to read more than the title, author and ISBN number and couldn't remember the last time he'd been to a Happy Readers meeting.

They remembered him, though.

On the first anniversary of his death the meeting broke up ten minutes early to open a bottle of wine and toast his memory. "To Kevin," they said. "Wherever he is, he'll have found a bookshop."

Kevin re-shelved an Oxford Press first edition of the Bible, disgusted at the way some customers treated the books. This one, for example, had a long-fingered handprint burned into the cover.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Lost and Found

"Why have you put a wooden box at the front of the shop?" asked Harold. "I know we have the occasional piece of lost property but don't we just keep them in your desk drawer?"

"My desk drawer. Exactly." Julie pulled it open. It was stuffed with files pertaining to the shop's inventory. "It left me no room for the files."

"I think it's ugly," said Harold. "Can we put it somewhere else? Under your desk, perhaps?"

"What should I do with my feet then? Chop them off?"

"You could use the box as a foot rest." Harold smiled, hoping this would end the conversation. Julie deflated and was about to capitulate when Jasfoup appeared.

"Lost and found box? What a splendid idea."

"Is it?" Harold rolled his eyes. "Why?"

"People often take something they'd never lost in the first place," said the demon. "We can mark them as Hellbound."

Friday, April 02, 2010

Body Dump, Dump, Dump

"This is ridiculous."

DI White had never been so tempted to start smoking again as he was now. He glanced back at the body , what they'd found of it.

"I know sir." Peters gave him an upward nod. "The lengths they go to, trying conceal a body, then do something as stupid as tossing the blood-caked bin bag they carried it in under the hedge."

"We're luck a dog found it and not a fox or a badger." White took several calming breaths to stop himself asking DC James -- JimJam to his friends – for a cigarette. Beryl would do her nut if she smelled it on him. "What I meant, though, was we've had three murders in the space of a week, each one with a different m.o. and nothing to tie the victims together."

"There was the..."

White cut him off. "I know Mr. Stephens was bound in rope and we are investigating avenues of inquiry in the fetish scene. That's not what I meant, as you very well know."

"Yes sir. Sorry." Peters tapped his notebook with his pencil. "No ID on this one yet, other than the obvious Caucasian male with red hair."

"How do we know that?"

"Did you not have a shufty, sir? We've found his torso with his wedding tackle mostly intact. Natural redhead, trust me."

"Mostly?"

"Yes, sir. It had been cut along the shaft." Seeing his boss turn green was worth every moment of Peter's own discomfort, earlier.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Distress Call

Harold's hearing was astonishing.

While he was generally deaf to the concept of hints for birthday presents, unheeding of the call of a crying child (as an 'involved' father he could tell the difference between genuine distress, attention seeking, and full nappies) and oblivious to the parched gags of a demon desperate for tea, he could nevertheless hear the distress call of a book at over a hundred yards.

He could distinguish between the ripping of a page, the taking up of damp from a puddle, and the satisfied hiss of a fungus spore making a landing on a cotton flocked cover.

"It's a gift," he would say, handing Lucy to a complete stranger while he brushed the dust from a discarded Agatha Christie.